On a beautiful, sunny day, wearing either bright yellow, blue, red, black, or white outfits, over 5,000 people sat on a grassy field forming the emblem for the spiritual practice of Falun Dafa on New York City’s Governors Island.

In celebration of World Falun Dafa Day, which was on May 13, practitioners of the spiritual practice planned for three days the formation of the colorful emblem and three Chinese characters in yellow, for Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance.

The spiritual practice’s emblem is known as a “Falun” which translates into “law wheel” in English. The center of the emblem has a large Falun, which represents a miniature of the universe. The three characters formed below the emblem represent the three universal characteristics that the spiritual practice embodies.

Chinese character formation on governors Island in New York, celebrating World Falun Dafa Day, on May 18, 2019. (Falun Dafa Association)

Falun Dafa

Falun Dafa (Law Wheel Great Law) is an ancient Chinese cultivation practice for self-improvement of mind and body, where “assimilation to the highest qualities of the universe—Zhen, Shan, Ren (Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance)—is the foundation of practice,” according to falundafa.org.

Although the practice has been around for thousands of years, it was first introduced to the general public in China in 1992 by Master Li Hongzhi.

The practice includes a set of five gentle, qigong exercises.

Dafa practitioners photographed and filmed the event for posterity, and according to some participants they joined in forming the emblem to bring attention to the joys as well as the major struggles practitioners have endured for the last 20 years when the persecution in China started.

The persecution

Once the practice was introduced to the public in China, it quickly became the dedicated practice of so many within a few short years and was not marketed but spread through word of mouth.

To begin with, various other qigong exercises were already popular in China in 1992. Millions of people practiced openly in parks.

When Falun Dafa was introduced, many people found the benefits to be very good, reported experiencing marked health benefits, and mental and emotional improvements as well.

So noticeable were the benefits that within a few years an estimated 100 million Chinese took up the practice. The benefits experienced from taking up the cultivation practice are the joys practitioners wish to bring attention to each World Falun Dafa Day in New York since 2000.

However, in 1999 Falun Dafa was banned because it was growing too large for the likes of Jiang Zemin, the head of the Chinese Communist Party at the time.

Jiang began a campaign to senselessly persecute practitioners. For many, it was a horrific nightmare. They were beaten in the streets, tortured in prison, and sent to labor camps, sometimes for years. These are the struggles practitioners wish to bring attention to each World Falun Dafa Day in New York.

Worse yet, a former Chinese Army doctor told a U.S. congressional committee that he had helped harvest organs from executed prisoners and had even removed the skin from a man who had not yet died, The New York Times reported on June 29, 2001.

Consequently, in 2006 there were reports that countless organs harvested for sale and transplant to unsuspecting organ recipients, were from healthy Falun Dafa prisoners of conscience.

The spectacle, known as character formation, is a decades-old tradition that started in China in the 1990s, according to NTD. Since the persecution started, overseas practitioners have taken up the torch to keep the tradition alive.

Outside of China, Falun Dafa is practiced openly in more than 70 countries.